One thing that every adult victim of narcissistic parents I have spoken with has struggled with is forgiving their parents.
So many people, particularly Christians, think that these victims need to forgive & forget. They often quote Ephesians 4:26 which says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” When victims struggle with forgiving & forgetting, they are shamed & even shunned by the very people who should support them, creating even more pain, guilt & shame in the victim.
I want to give you a new perspective on forgiveness that I think can help you today.
If you look at the definition of forgive, nowhere does it say you don’t feel anger. According to Merriam-Webster.com, to forgive means:
1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : PARDON; forgive one’s enemies
2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for; forgive an insult
b : to grant relief from payment of; forgive a debt
It’s possible to forgive someone while still feeling anger for them. What I mean is when you forgive someone, you decide that they don’t owe you an apology or repentance. You won’t try to collect that “debt” from them. You have released that person from paying you the debt that they owe you. This is what I try to do any time someone mistreats me- give up expectations of an apology immediately. That way, I have forgiven that person, as God wants me to do. Yet, even forgiving quickly doesn’t mean I may not still feel some anger for that person for a while. See what I mean? You can forgive while still feeling anger.
I also firmly believe that releasing the anger you feel can be a process. If the waitress makes a mistake on your order or a clerk is rude, those minor incidents are easy to forgive. Big issues though, it takes time to work through the anger. Processing anger from years of abuse takes a lot of time & work, especially if you learned early in life to ignore your anger which is the case with most children of narcissistic parents.
There is also the fact many people think to forgive your abusive parents is a one time thing. You just forgive everything in one fell swoop & *poof* you’re not angry & you never will be angry again with them. As anyone who has tried to forgive their narcissistic parents knows, that isn’t how it works. You have to work through many different traumas individually, not lump them all together as one big trauma.
I honestly can say I have forgiven my narcissistic parents. However, there are still some times I feel anger at them.
When a repressed memory comes back to mind, I feel anger at my parents about the incident. When I have flashbacks, nightmares, the anxiety & depression get bad, I also feel anger. It’s their fault I have C-PTSD, after all. Plus, when I told my father about having it, he ignored me then changed the subject. Sometimes I also feel anger when others talk about what a great relationship they have with their parents. I wanted that with mine, but wasn’t able to have it, because their narcissism was more important to them than me.
Do you think this means I haven’t forgiven my parents? If so, I’d have to respectfully disagree. I have released my parents from any responsibility to apologize or make amends with me, which is the definition of forgiving.
Yes, there are times I still feel anger at them, as I admitted, & I think it’s very normal. I also work through the anger & release it quickly. That is the best I can do, & I know God honors that I am trying. That’s all He asks of us, to try our best.
If someone tells you you’re wrong for not forgiving your narcissistic parents, Dear Reader, please remember what I said in this post. If you don’t expect your parents to apologize or repay you for the trauma they inflicted on you, you already have forgiven them. The more you heal, the less anger you’ll feel towards them. It just takes some time.
True forgiveness has been very warped by people. So many thing it means “forgive & forget” & if you can’t do that, you’re no Christian & a terrible person. I really don’t believe that however.
Yes, the Bible states that we are to forgive those who have trespassed against us (Matthew 6:12, 15; 18:21; Luke 7:47, 11:4, 17:3; John 20:23; 2 Corinthians 2:10). But, nowhere in the Bible does it state, “Forgive & forget. Let abusive people continue to abuse you with zero consequences!” Quite honestly, I believe that is just stupid to do when a person shows no remorse for their actions! If you don’t remember what they did to you, you open the door for them to abuse you over & over.
A good friend recently showed me what forgiveness really means, & this “forgive & forget” thing people preach isn’t it.
If you forgive someone, it means they no longer owe you a debt. For example, if you lend someone $100, but they can’t repay it, you can opt to forgive their debt to you by telling them they no longer need to repay you that $100. You act as if they never borrowed that money from you, you don’t bring it up again. However, you may decide never to lend them money again since they didn’t repay you the first time.
If someone hurts or abuses you, they should “repay” you by apologizing & making things right if at all possible. Chances are slim that will happen if you’re dealing with a narcissist or even if that person is simply selfish &, well, a jerk.
This situation leaves you with 2 choices- wait for that apology or forgive them the debt of owing you that apology. Personally, I opt to forgive, & quickly.
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath,” (KJV). Nowhere in this Scripture does it say doing this will make you feel warm & fuzzy! God basically says you just need to release the need for that person to make it up to you for what they did. Once you realize this, you also realize that in time your emotions will catch up, that you won’t feel angry any longer.
I think there is also a common misconception that when your emotions catch up, even thinking about what happened will no longer upset you. However, I don’t believe that is quite the case.
It isn’t a sign of unforgiveness if what they did to you stirs up some emotion.
I don’t think or talk about my late mother in-law very often. She passed away last year & prior to that, I hadn’t spoken to her in 14 years. She was a very skilled covert narcissist, & after tolerating her abuse for the first 8 years of my relationship with my husband, I simply couldn’t take anymore.
Yesterday, I was working on a book I’ve been writing. I mentioned how once in 1999 (I think anyway.. around that time), my mother in-law wanted me to do something for her. I had an appointment that day, so I told her I couldn’t do it. Granted, I probably could have moved some things around & been there for her, but I didn’t want to. She was horrible to me- why would I want to help her? As soon as I said I wasn’t available, my mother in-law tried to find out why. She used guilt, shame, & even demands to find out what was so important that I couldn’t help her. I refused to tell her. Not only was it none of her business but she would have told her daughters what was happening with me (not their business either) & she probably would’ve found some way to use the information I gave her to hurt me at some future date.
Remembering this incident still angers me to a degree. I thought it must be a sign that I haven’t forgiven her. But, once I thought that, God quickly revealed to me that is not the case.
Forgiving someone completely doesn’t necessarily mean you never feel emotions over the awful things they did to you. You can forgive someone completely, yet still feel some anger about the fact that they hurt or used you. If you didn’t feel that way, chances are you would ignore signs that show you are about to be used & hurt that same way again.
So, the next time someone tells you that you need to work on forgiving someone, remember what I said, Dear Reader. Chances are, you have forgiven that person as God wants you to. xoxo
Many people have very definite opinions on the topic of forgiving narcissists. Usually it’s one of two extremes- either you forgive & forget, or you refuse to forgive because narcissists don’t deserve forgiveness & aren’t sorry for the damage they cause anyway.
I am a firm believer in forgiveness, but not in the “forgive & forget” sense.
In a relationship with a narcissist, if someone confronts a narcissist, they can count on any of a variety of possible, ugly scenarios happening: The narcissist denies everything, the narcissist blames the victim for “making” her act that way, the narcissist turns the tables so she is the victim & the real victim is mean/unreasonable, or the narcissist recruits her flying monkeys to talk some “sense” into the victim while taking attention off the narcissist’s actions & making her look like an innocent victim.
When this happens, many people end all contact or greatly limit their contact with the narcissist. Often, especially in Christian circles, this is mistaken as the victim hating the narcissist or holding a grudge. That can be true of course, but in my experience, it’s seldom the case.
Using myself as an example, I’ve had to end friendships. The hardest was with an old friend I’d had for over 20 years. I’d prayed a great deal before doing so, & knew in my heart it was the right choice. Not because I hated my friend, but because I knew I deserved to be treated better than I was being treated. I forgave him for his actions, but since I’d seen him changing, realized I would be hurt again if I continued the friendship. I didn’t trust him anymore.
I’ve seen many scenarios with adult daughters of narcissistic mothers that are very similar. The daughters go no contact because of how awfully their mothers treated them, & they learn their mothers are trash talking them to other people which shows they don’t want to fix things. It also shows they have no desire to apologize or accept responsibility for what they have done. These daughters are seldom angry about what their mothers have done, & almost never say they hate their mothers. I would guess that 99% of the daughters I’ve spoken with in these situations don’t harbor anger. They have forgiven their mothers, but they also know they have to have her out of their lives for the sake of their own mental health &/or to protect their husbands & children.
Unfortunately with narcissists, a normal, functional, healthy pattern of working problems out doesn’t happen. Normally, someone is approached about the hurtful action they did, that person apologizes & if necessary, changes their actions to regain your trust. Since that won’t happen with a narcissist, many times very limited or no contact is the only option left. If you are in that situation, please don’t allow others to make you feel badly for making that choice or accuse you of being unforgiving or un-Christian. Do what you believe you need to do!
And, remember- forgiveness isn’t about the narcissist. It’s something you do for yourself because you deserve better than carrying around anger or bitterness. That is all. It can be done whether or not you’re in a relationship with your abuser. Reconciling the relationship & learning to trust the abuser require that person’s participation, but forgiving her does not.
Recently, I saw this Scripture…
Proverbs 6:16-19 “16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: 17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, 19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” (KJV)
Immediately, I thought of my mother. She has done all of these things. Immediately after I thought of that, I felt a burden to pray for her. I decided that since my memory is pretty bad, I’d set an alarm on my cell phone to remind me to pray for her every morning. Shortly after, I decided to add my father to that morning prayer.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, if they will change or not. It is up to them if they respond to or ignore God’s promptings to change. However, whether or not they do, I know praying for them is changing me. It’s only been a few days, but so far, so good. I feel a new peace knowing I have done something good for them.
When someone hurts or abuses you, it’s so hard to pray for them at first. It may even take years before you feel able to do so, especially when the hurt goes deep. I have been a Christian since February, 1996, & in that time, I admit, I haven’t prayed much for my parents or even my in-laws. They all hurt me too deeply. I tried, but sometimes prayed through gritted teeth. Starting to pray for my parents regularly this time hasn’t been easy, but I pushed through. I am glad I did, because the more I do it, the easier it gets. The more sincere I am in my prayers. And, I’ll probably add the in-laws to my daily prayers.
I know this may seem a very daunting task, but why don’t you give it a try too? Even when you pray through gritted teeth like me, God will honor your willingness to do so & make it easier for you to pray for them. You truly will be blessed when you pray for others as I have been.
Good afternoon, Dear Readers!
It’s come to my attention recently that not a lot of people really understand true, Godly forgiveness, so I thought I’d write about my thoughts on the topic.
Unforgiveness prevents you from spending your life happy. Unforgiveness is not only detrimental to your emotional/mental health but your physical health too. Things like high blood pressure, diabetes, ulcers, kidney & heart problems can stem from carrying around that negativity. Forgiveness, however, gives you no health problems & gives you peace & joy. It’s no wonder God wants us to forgive! (see Ephesians 4:32)
Unfortunately, I think people often believe forgiving others means you should pretend what hurt you didn’t even happen. Forgive & forget, as the old saying goes. While a lot of times, you should forgive & forget, there are other times that simply isn’t wise! Forget the small infractions, like that person in line behind you bumping your heel with the grocery cart. But if someone repeatedly hurts you, don’t forget that! If you do, basically you’re setting yourself up to be hurt again. For example, if someone is verbally abusive, & you forgive & forget every time, you’re going to be hurt many times. Instead, you need to be aware of what this person is capable of, & protect yourself from her verbal attacks however you feel is right.
Forgiveness also has nothing to do with the person who abused or hurt you- it is about you & you alone. You deserve better than being angry & bitter! Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It doesn’t discredit what was done to you, or a sign of weakness. It means you want to obey God, & be good to yourself at the same time.
Some people think that cutting people out of your life is a sign you hate them, still harbor anger or aren’t a good Christian. This is simply NOT the case! I have ended quite a few relationships in my life, & not once was that done in anger. I did it after careful consideration & prayer, never during a fit of anger. To this day, I harbor no ill-will or unforgiveness towards those people I have eliminated from my life, either. I simply don’t want to tolerate their mistreatment of me- I know I deserve better.
I know there are times it’s hard to forgive. When someone hurts you deeply or repeatedly, forgiveness seems impossible. The good news is that it isn’t. It may take some time for you to forgive someone, but that is fine! God understands that, & He can help you to forgive, too. All you’ll need is a desire to forgive.
-Your first step in forgiving others is a decision that you want to forgive. It sounds simple, but sometimes this is a hard step when you’re very angry or hurt. If you lack that desire, then by all means, ask God to help you!
-Also, try to see things from the offender’s perspective. That person could be in a bad mood because of going through something stressful, & unfairly took out her frustrations on you.
-And, some people are naturally selfish, insensitive, oblivious to the feelings of others. There are still other people simply never learned to treat others with respect & consideration.
-Ask God to help you release your anger. Sometimes it helps to imagine you are holding a bag containing your anger, then you place it at the foot of Jesus. I’ve done that a few times, & it can be helpful. Get your feelings out. Write a letter to the person that you never show her. Get it all out- why what she did hurt you. You can keep the letter if it helps you somehow, but I’ve found burning it to be oddly therapeutic.
-Lastly, this is the hardest part- pray for that person. (see Matthew 5:44). I have prayed through clenched teeth a few times-literally! But, I’ve learned that once you pray for that person, it releases some anger. The more you pray for her, the more anger is released.
Remember, forgiveness is good for truly good for you, & it doesn’t discount any pain you have experienced! Also, it can take time sometimes, & there is nothing wrong with that. Just because you can’t forgive someone immediately doesn’t make you a bad person! And, remember too that although there is a time to forgive & forget, there is also a time to forgive but remember! ❤
Good morning, Dear Readers. I hope this post finds you well today.
It’s been such a rough week here, first losing my sweet Georgie last Wednesday, then my dear aunt Sunday. And, icing on the cake is that my mother is mad at me. Yippie.. the only reason I can think of is either because I snapped at her recently during a conversation or because I didn’t call her on her birthday- I only sent a card. (It was the day I lost Georgie- I was hurting too much to talk to anyone).
I realized she was mad on Sunday. My husband, father & I were almost to my aunt’s home when my mother called my cell phone. She said my cousin called & said my aunt passed away, so we shouldn’t bother coming. When I spoke to my cousin later, he never mentioned saying that to her. She also didn’t call me or send a birthday card yesterday. She is using her favorite weapon- the silent treatment. A common weapon of narcissists. Funny thing though- I don’t know anyone who gets upset or feels bad when a narcissist stops speaking to them. Personally, I enjoy it! The timing works well for me, too. I need some time to take care of myself & grieve my losses without any stupid, unnecessary drama.
Besides, I am angry with my mother right now. When I was hanging out with my family Sunday, I was thinking how blessed I am. They are wonderful people. But, I didn’t even know they were until I was an adult. As a child, my mother kept me close to her side at family gatherings. I was barely allowed to speak to my paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins. My mother despises her in-laws, & always has, so she didn’t let me interact with them. Then, at age 17, my mother told me that my grandparents were ashamed of me. It wasn’t long after, my now ex-husband said my mother was right, & that they didn’t care about me at all. As a result, I stopped seeing my family completely for about 8 years.
I did end up contacting my granddad 3 years before he died. We quickly grew very close. I also was blessed with growing close to other relatives for the first time. I am extremely grateful for these relationships. However, I still have trouble releasing the anger I feel about my mother keeping me from my family in the first place. I don’t want to be mad anymore, but I just can’t seem to let it go, even though I’ve forgiven her for everything else. Please pray for me.
Oh, a side note- Granddad told me nothing could be further from the truth. He & Grandmom loved me a great deal…
I’m sorry this post isn’t inspirational or informative today. I hope it at least let’s other children of narcissistic parents know you aren’t alone. ❤
I just read an interesting article about forgiveness. It claims that sometimes unforgiveness is a good thing. The article gave an example of a woman who was abused all of her life by her brother, then as an adult, she stopped speaking to him, attending family gatherings that he was also to attend, etc. It confused me because to me, refusing to speak to her brother doesn’t necessarily mean she hasn’t forgiven him. Not everyone in a situation like this is hanging onto anger- they are setting boundaries.
I am a firm believer in forgiveness, & also a firm believer in setting healthy boundaries. As an example, I have ended friendships with people who used me, lied to me, or even had Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I refuse to spend time with them ever again. However, I’m not angry with them, nor do I wish them any harm. I simply care enough about myself not to put myself in the path of being mistreated by people who have proved themselves fully capable of it.
To me, forgiveness means refusing to allow anger to fester inside of me. I hate feeling angry!! As soon as it happens, I work through the anger as quickly as I can, then let it go. It has nothing to do with the person who has made me angry- it is about me, & how I don’t want to go through life angry or bitter.
Forgiveness also doesn’t necessarily mean forgiving & forgetting. Many times it does, of course, when the offense is small. However, if you are dealing with an abusive person, forgetting what they have done means you easily can set yourself up for further abuse. Look at the example of a wife whose husband beats her. If she forgives him & forgets, he will beat her again. He will beg for forgiveness, she will forgive & forget, then he will beat her again. The cycle will continue until she leaves him. Leaving isn’t a matter of forgiveness or unforgiveness- it’s a matter of survival.
Coming from a narcissistic mother, I have had to learn a lot about forgivness & boundaries. What I have written about here is the result of reading, listening to pastors preach on forgiveness, & praying. I pray it blesses you!